Team USA returned to the top of the world to clinch their second team title in the history of the VISSLA ISA World Junior Surfing Championship.
Japan’s Joh Azuchi and Argentina’s Ignacio Gundesen won breakthrough Gold Medals for their countries while Hawaii’s Brisa Hennessy repeated as the Girls U-18 Gold Medalist and Alyssa Spencer’s Girls U-16 Gold Medal solidified the title for Team USA.
Trailing USA by only 263 points, Team Hawaii earned the Silver Medal with five individual medals of their own, Japan with the Bronze, and Australia with the Copper.
The Bronze Medal for Team Japan comes on the back of their emerging performance in 2016 where they finished on the podium for the first time in history winning the Team Copper Medal. The Japanese delivered an exceptional, well-balanced performance, elevating their result in their home country.
In the Boys’ Finals Team Japan and Argentina made history as Joh Azuchi (JPN, U-16) and Ignacio Gundesen (ARG, U-18) earned the first-ever Gold Medals for their respective nations in the event, displaying the development and growth of the sport in emerging Surfing countries around the world.
Hawaii’s Brisa Hennessy entered an elite group of world-class surfers, earning her second ISA Junior World Champion Title, a feat that has also been accomplished by current WSL stars Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW), Tyler Wright (AUS), and Stephanie Gilmore (AUS).
The U-16 Girls kicked off the Grand Finals in a duel between Hawaii and USA, a pivotal point in the race for the Team Gold. USA’s Alyssa Spencer started off the heat with an excellent 9-point ride, and then capped it off with a near-perfect 9.87, earning her first Gold Medal in the event. Hawaii’s Keala Tomoda-Bannert kept Hawaii close in the team rankings, earning the Silver medal. Samantha Sibley (USA) earned the Bronze and Gabriela Bryan (HAW) the Copper.
The U-16 Boy’s Grand Final followed, as the beach filled with thousands of spectators to root on the home-nation heroes Joh Azuchi and Keanu Chris Kamiyama. Azuchi’s last wave of 8.6 was just enough to boost him into the lead ahead of USA’s Taro Watanabe by a narrow margin of 0.16 points. The crowd erupted in cheers and stormed to the water’s edge to greet Azuchi, their first-ever ISA Junior World Champion. USA’s Watanabe earned the Silver, Japan’s Kamiyama the Bronze, and Brazil’s Lucas Vicente the Copper.
The Girls U-18 Grand Final was next, featuring two past ISA Junior World Champions Summer Macedo (2015) and Brisa Hennessy (HAW). Hennessy, the defending Gold Medalist, had a tough time finding waves at the beginning of the heat, but found her rhythm in the final minutes, earning two wave scores of 8.5 and 7.77. Hennessy jumped into first and earned the Gold, followed by Leilani McGonagle (CRC) with the Silver, Summer Macedo (HAW) with the Bronze, and Kirra Pinkerton (USA) with the Copper.
The Boys U-18 Grand Final, the last of the day, would decide if USA or Hawaii would take home the Team Gold Medal. However, Argentina’s Ignacio Gundesen had plans of his own and quickly jumped out to the lead which held through the end of the heat. Gundesen earned the first junior Gold Medal for Argentina, drawing tears of joy from his team that received him on the beach. USA’s Noah Hill earned the Silver Medal ahead of Hawaii’s Cody Young, assuring a Team Gold Medal for USA. Australia’s Dylan Moffat came in fourth with the Copper.
1 (Gold) – USA
2 (Silver) – Hawaii
3 (Bronze) – Japan
4 (Copper) – Australia
5 – France
6 – Brazil
7 – Costa Rica
8 – Argentina
9 – Portugal
10 – New Zealand
1 (Gold) – Alyssa Spencer (USA)
2 (Silver) – Keala Tomoda-Bannert (HAW)
3 (Bronze) – Samantha Sibley (USA)
4 (Copper) – Gabriela Bryan (HAW)
1 (Gold) – Joh Azuchi (JPN)
2 (Silver) – Taro Watanabe (USA)
3 (Bronze) – Keanu Chris Kamiyama (JPN)
4 (Copper) – Lucas Vicente (BRA)
1 (Gold) – Brisa Hennessy (HAW)
2 (Silver) – Leilani McGonagle (CRC)
3 (Bronze) – Summer Macedo (HAW)
4 (Copper) – Kirra Pinkerton (USA)
1 (Gold) – Ignacio Gundesen (ARG)
2 (Silver) – Noah Hill (USA)
3 (Bronze) – Cody Young (HAW)
4 (Copper) – Dylan Moffat (AUS)